Pioneer S-1EX Loudspeaker

As a fan of TAD loudspeakers – but not in the proper tax-bracket – I am curious about Andrew Jones’ design for the Pioneer brand – the Pioneer S-1EX floor stander (which is essentially a baby TAD with the Pioneer logo). Does anyone have any experience with this speaker see here
Never heard 'em, but if you're looking at these speakers, I recently happened to follow a bunch of links to this:

I can't say whether or not this makes the speaker a good deal, but it will be a better deal than $11k/pr.


Thanks for the link. That's $3,375 for each speaker and that's about what I can get them for from my local dealer. I was curious about what other folks' opinions are on the speaker itself.

Thanks again.

I believe I have a review from the UK based magazine Hi Fi Choice. I recall the review was very favorable and judged it a steal at the price.

I'm guessing you like the sound and just want to make sure someone else didn't find a major flaw that you haven't noticed as of yet.
Thanks Rhljazz.

I have listened to them at the dealers, but I would of course have to listen to them in my system in my home and I haven't decided if I want to bother with that. I love the bigger TAD's, but the least expensive TAD is more than thirty-grand. I was wondering if others have any real experience with the Pioneers, which purportedly incorporate several key components and technologies of the TAD line...

I just can't get a good read on them at the dealer's show room. His equipment and room is so much different than mine...we all know how that goes...and - of course - I am also trying to gain some "reassurance," as well as some insight into any known shortcomings...


Let me start by saying that I wish I had never sold mine. The concentric tweeter and midrange are fantastic. The bass is powerful but a little loose and rolled off around 35hz in my room. The speakers are built very well and look better in person than in pictures but in my dimly lit room they tended to look mostly black. They need an amp with a good grip on the bass to tame the slight looseness.

I was the fourth person in the US to take delivery of the S-1EX so there was a bit of a learning curve involved. In my experience I found that I needed an additional 1.5 inches of blocking in the back to get the tweet/mid aimed properly. I thought I might be crazy but then Kal's review came out in Stereophile and he discovered the same thing.

Kal and I exchanged a few emails about it and then I contacted Andrew Jones at TAD. We discussed it in great detail but I had already come up with the most workable solution. Here's the thing, the speakers have a severe rake back that aims the tweet/mid way up over your head making the speakers sound dark and closed in,which can be very pleasant to some. Once the speakers are aimed correctly the sound explodes into the room filling evey inch from top to bottom and side to side. Sweet beautiful notes hang in the air and swirl around you. All in all a totally different experience when aimed correctly.

You should also know that no one at Pioneer will know what you are talking about if you call them. If you want to know anything or need help you will need to contact TAD. Just pm me if you need any more information.
Thank you Geared-4-me, That's very helpful. I currently have the Krell Resolution 2 speakers - no slouches either, but I am hoping the Pioneers will deliver the same controlled and authoritative base as the Krells, but with a more resolving high-frequency response, I really like the Krells, but if I could just get a little more refinement in the upper mid and treble regions...

Anyone have experience with both the Krells and the Pioneers...??


I am auditioning the S-1EX's in my room this weekend. So far, these are by far the best $15,0000 - $18,000 speaker I have heard in my room (they are now specially priced - new - at $7,000). I also auditioned the "2's" (the smaller "monitor" version and they are also very impressive). Wow! tough choice...

I can't believe I never hear about these truly excellent speakers...

Audio Video Logic has a few pairs left for anyone looking for a new speaker in the under-$10,000-range. I would advise those to consider these before pulling the trigger on anything in that range.
I just got a pair of Pioneer S-3EX Loudspeakers. The more you play them the better they sound. They need about 400 hours before you hear what they really can do.

How did you guys set them up and how close to the walls were they? These things are so new to the American market that's there's very little set up information to be had. I have a 16 by 14 foot room with 9 foot ceilings. Any suggestions?
I went ahead and bought the S-2EX, which are exceptionally well-built speakers. I am not currently satisfied with their sound though and I fear it is the beryllium dome tweeter that is the culprit. I have about 75-hours on them and I sure hope that, with another 200-hours or so, they will "mellow out."

They are indeed very revealing speakers and they certainly present a lot of information - very resolving. They do measure pretty flat across the spectrum, but the upper treble is just too dry for me at present. Right now, I miss my old Krell Resolution IIs, but they were a bit too rolled off in the upper treble (I've gone from one extreme to the next!).

I haven't made my final analysis yet and I hope that with additional hours on them, these speakers turn out to be keepers. They're quick, detailed and highly resolving, yet at this point they are just too thin and dry - lacking the needed air around the upper treble... I hope this isn't indicative of beryllium tweeters in general...
I have my S3-EX 16 inches from the back wall and 30 inches from the sides. They have warmed up a bit since I got them, I still don't think I have them in the right place for the best sound.

Have you tried experimenting with the amount of toe-in (both away from and toward the listening position) as well as the amount of rake (the way the speaker leans forward or backward - which affects the direction the tweeter fires; either directly at or above the level of your ears)...?

What exactly do you not like about the current sound; too thin, too boomy, not resolving enough, sound-staging issues...?
I have them toed in but not all the way and I put some rubber and cork footers under the back legs of the speaker. I wish that 5th foot was a little longer as I put the cork flats that came with the speakers under that too. It sounds very good but I think it could sound better.
Have you tried toeing in the speakers so the drivers axis cross well in front of you? That is Andrew Jones' suggestion of how the TAD's should be set up. When the focus is right the concentric drivers should present a holographic image that comes a bit forward as opposed to imaging behind the speakers, is highly focused with great inner detail, but shouldn't be "dry".

I never heard the Pioneer's but some people hear the TAD as sounding a bit "bright," and I totally understand that description.

However when I had the TAD's and used to listen to them directly after hearing un-amplified live music from up close (as opposed to from the audience) I found the speakers presented a balance very close to the real thing, which in some instances can sound forward and detailed. But I never heard any of the magnesium mid range models, just the beryllium, so I can't speak as to their tonality.
Thanks Emailists.

I have read about Andrew Jones' recommendations to cross the axis in front of the listening position. I haven't gotten around to trying this yet, but I plan to. I really like having the image come from behind the speakers since that is what I am accustom to, but I will try it both ways.

I will say that the S-2ex's are surprisingly close to the excellent CR-1's (as hard as that may be to fathom...). My dealer has both set up in the same room on the same system. Obviously, the CR-1's are better, but they are also about five-and-a-half times the cost.
If I were to toe in my S3-EX in my 16.5 by 14 foot room, I would hardly see the front of the speakers. I have them toed in so the axis cross is right where I'm sitting. As far as Tad speakers being bright, they were just a bit bright when I got them new, however the more I listened the warmer they got.
John from Audio Video Logic came over to my house and set the speakers up properly. He was there for more than two hours and was extremely thorough. We tried a variety of positions and came up with a very effective solution. The positioning alone helped significantly. Additionally, I am auditioning a Mac amp in the system, which really mates well with the speakers. I love my Krell, but the MC-302 really sounds nice with the S-2ex's...

How far from the walls are they and how big is your room?
I've been looking at <$5k monitors and those S-2 EX's look great, especially at those discounted prices. What's the deal with that, are they closing them out in anticipation of new models? Is audiovideologic legit, as in an authorized dealer? I saw their payment policy and I don't like not being able to put things on my credit card for protection. How about that liquidator, are they legit?

I can personally vouch for AudioVideoLogic. Of course, you don't have a clue to my credentials. If you would like, you can send me a private message.

Anyway, I have know John Weirs - the owner of AVLogic - for fifteen years now and he has become a personal friend of mine. I have the utmost respect for John. Not only does he have true integrity (he is a straight-shooter and as honest as they come), he also really knows the business. He is as knowledgeable as anyone I have known in the business.

AudioVideoLogic is definitely legit (110-percent legit). They are indeed an authorized dealer for TAD and Pioneer. Andrew Jones will be at AVLogic next month.

I own the Pioneer S-2ex and I simply cannot believe how good they are. I now have them dialed in and they just sound ...well they sound unbelievable for the money. Literally, 90-percent of what the $40,000 TAD CR-1's offer....

Four feet from the side walls, 20" to the back of the speaker from the front wall, raked slightly forward (about 1/8 of a bubble on the level). My room is 16' x 20' with 8' ceilings.

I'm using a combination of absorption and diffusion panels on all walls.
Thanks for your response, unfortunately AVL said they wouldn't be able to sell me 3, only available in pairs. The S7-EX CC won't work for my setup.
John Weirs told me it wasn't necessary to rack them forward. I have my S3's 25inches from the back of the speaker(about 44 inches from the front panel)to the front wall and about 37 inches from the center of the speakers to the side walls. I tried them closer a to the front wall and further away from the side walls but it didn't sound as good. I'm not using any absorption and diffusion panels on the walls but could use some absorption on the sides. 2chnlben, if I were you I'd bring them out a little further, like 3 or 4 inches...just a thought. Enjoy your Pioneers.

The S-2EX's use a different concentric driver array than the 3's. In there case, both John and I agreed that the beryllium-driver based concentric driver combo sounded the sweetest just above axis. We therefore positioned them raked slightly forward. We also toed them out so that they fire well to the sides of the listener. In my room, this is a very good way to set them up. The farther way from the side walls the better. It really opens up the whole sound stage.
I just "upgraded" to the Pioneer S-1EX's and I am flabbergasted... They are brand new, fresh out of the cases yesterday and they already sound very very good. I haven't been so pleased with a speaker purchase in a long time.

There's typically been a trade-off when I change speakers. These things are simply impressive as hell and so far seem to be a really great combination of the things I've been striving for. I may even do a review after they break in...or not!

Awesome. Did they give you a trade on your S-2's or did you sell them yourself?
I came very close to buying some S2's. Ended up ordering a Salk supercharged songtower (high WAF, smaller footprint than the S2) and a custom CC (no way I was going to get away with another speaker in front of our fireplace).
Be sure to let us know how you set up your S-1's and how far away from the walls you place them. I'm still trying to get maximum sound from my S-3's.

Optimal space restrictions prevent me from bringing the speakers out into the room as far as I would like. I have ample room on each side (a little better than four feet to each side wall), but only two feet from the front wall (behind the speakers). In this setup, the speakers present a very wide and realistically tall sound-stage with enough depth to suite my tastes. Surprisingly, these bigger speakers image nearly as well as their smaller siblings (the S-2EX), but they don't fully disappear as well as the S-2's. The overall tone and presentation is more believable with the S-1's.

I have the tweeters firing to the sides of my ears with the axis somewhere behind me. My listening sofa sits against a "half-wall" (just a couple of inches higher than the sofa) on the other side of which there is another room which allows sound waves to move well behind the listening position. I have the speakers raked forward by a good half-bubble.

It's too early to know if this is the optimal setup, but it sounds really good to my ears. I'll have John over to provide some "fine-tuning!"


No matter where I place them the tweeter sounds a little scratchy and over the top. Any suggestions?
Not sure it has been mentioned that Audio Video Logic is having a substantial sale on these speakers.

Try this... Disconnect one speaker from the amp - either speaker - (turn amp off and remove one set of speaker cables from the amp).

Fire the amp back up and position your ears below the "firing path" of the tweeter (literally get up and move around in the near vicinity of your listening point - squatting low at various heights just below the tweeter's "path."). With the S2's, I found that the brightness (glare) became worse below the tweeter and the treble actually became sweeter just above the tweeter. See what you think.

Next, position yourself at different points to the side ("inside" side) of the tweeter and locate where it sounds the sweetest. With the S2's the treble became less pronounced when my ears where slightly to the side of the tweeter.

In my case, I remedied the annoying glare by raking the speakers forward to the point that the tweeters fired slightly below my ears at the listening position (chair) - and slightly to the outside of the "direct pathway" to each ear (with the axis somewhere very close to, or immediately behind the listening position.

I also have to rake the S-1's forward, where at the right point the treble sounds excellent. Do keep in mind that these speakers are more planer-like in their ability to retrieve detailed treble - to the point that anyone who enjoys a speaker voiced on the warm side or rolled off at a noticeable upper frequency range, likely will not like the presentation of the EX series (which in my opinion, is pretty darn flat. Certainly the flattest I've owned - i.e.: excellent balance).

Let us know if you get the treble tamed.

Try this... Disconnect one speaker from the amp - either speaker - (turn amp off and remove one set of speaker cables from the amp).

Meaning , listen to the tweeter only on one speaker? I have mono blocks, so I just leave one turned off. I hope I have that right. Thank you very much for that test. I prefer warm speakers but I know just what you mean when you say "Balanced". These speakers are very planner like and remind me of my Martin Logan's in some ways, good thing I have a subwolfer. Sounds like you have them "Raked" very high in the back. What did you use to do that?
Try this... Disconnect one speaker from the amp - either speaker - (turn amp off and remove one set of speaker cables from the amp).

Meaning , listen to the tweeter only on one speaker? I have mono blocks, so I just leave one turned off. I hope I have that right. Thank you very much for that test. I prefer warm speakers but I know just what you mean when you say "Balanced". These speakers are very planner like and remind me of my Martin Logan's in some ways, good thing I have a subwoofer. Sounds like you have them "Raked" very high in the back. What did you use to do that?
What did you find better between the Tad and the S2EX when listening to them side by side? Was it subtle or a real night/day type of thing? In other words, lets say you listened to both in an a/b OR even the Tad on one channel, the S2EX on the other channel. What precisely do you hear different in such a scenario?

Thanks for the input and hopefully Zeal figured out what was happening with his setup!
Got the speakers in the right place. Put some Herbie's Decoupling/Isolation feet under the TADS and put some Auralex B22 Elite Pro Panels on the walls behind and to the side of the TADS. Now it sounds right to me. I can hear the speakers now and not wall slap or the floor. I'm driving them with Rogue Audio Mono 180's and the Rogue Athena pre amp.
I'm still experimenting with toe in and the length from the back walls. Remember I have the S-3EX, my room is too small for the S-1.
I thank everyone for their input.
Have you ever tried experimenting with smaller tube or transistor amps on these speakers? They seem very sensitive/efficient and I'm curious why many are using such high powered amps for these speakers. Perhaps better put, how much power do you think you are giving these speakers to make serious spl? Those 180's are brutes for power, but are you even needing much of that power to make excellent music? Sounds like the speaker is so resolving/revealing that every microscopic movement makes a night/day type of a difference, as in, this is a "very" high level speaker that involves a ton of critical care and not just your average/typical (cost no option even) speaker that you can make work quite simply without too much work.

Thanks for the input regarding power.
Sounds like the speaker is so resolving/revealing that every microscopic movement makes a night/day type of a difference, as in, this is a "very" high level speaker that involves a ton of critical care and not just your average/typical (cost no option even) speaker that you can make work quite simply without too much work.

Actually, I agree with Kal Rubinson's evaluation (from his excellent review in Stereophile):
In regard to ease of placement in a domestic room not exclusively dedicated to listening, the S-1EX surpassed all other speakers I've used. This means that anyone who buys the Pioneer is more likely to enjoy optimum results than with more finicky speakers.

All speakers require proper setup and some rooms are trickier than say the least! While the S-1EX's are indeed very resolving and detailed, they have not presented me with any difficult/unusual placement problems/issues as compared with other floor standers that I've had in my room. Since they are front-ported, they can be placed closer to the front wall (back wall to some folks) than the typical rear-ported floor standers.
I'm using my 180's at half power (About 90 watts)with KT88's. Its just that these are the only amps I have right now. I put some EL34's in them and they were super warm.

I unfortunately spiked them when I was tube rolling. I forgot to turn off one of the amps. I had pulled a power tube and a signal tube and heard a huge CRACK BANG, but the speakers still sound the same. Nothing broken. I'm worried about the tweeter woofer combination getting cracked. Hopefully there is no damage. I will be rolling in the EL34's today, far less power and super warmth.Will report back later.
The EL34's sound the best as they are less powerful then the KT88's and the KT90's. These speakers really don't need super powerful amps.
Hey Zeal,

So you got around to enjoying the sound of the EL34's more than the KT88/90's? Have you ever gotten remotely close to clipping the amp/s at extreme volume levels or are you getting darn loud levels even with the amps not even using much power?

I'd be very curious how others that own Tad based speakers find tubes vs. these Ice/Class D/T/etc. amps to sound. I know only one other person on a forum using an EL34 tubed amp as the main amp, but always see the shows using these Ice amps or some kinda Japanese SS type amp or even HT receiver.

These are basically 90db speakers so I truly struggle to find any reason whatsoever to need more than 5-20 watts to get serious output, and around 40-50 to get levels that are obtrusively loud.

Good to hear you are finding more ways to optimize the speaker:)!!! Personally I don't see anything on the market since Tad began marketing their stuff some 12? years ago that approaches this level of sound. Even though Pioneer is a lil different design, the transducers being used, at least in the 1EX w/BE tweeter, are identical to Tad's Evolution One which has been tough for people to identify in a/b testing against Tad's CR-1's. I'm sure the Ref Ones would be a lil clearer, but how much clearer does one need it to sound?

The Rogue monoblocks with EL34 tubes at half power sounds great. The speakers can only take 160 watts. I put up some Auralex acoustic panels behind them and some Herbie's isolation feet under them for easy moving. Can really hear the speakers now. Never heard the Tads with SS, be nice to try someday.
Was reading earlier in the thread about the Tads vs. the Pios. Can people that have heard both say there is an indefinite difference between the two or that it's a matter of taste than it is one speaker being superior to the other? Way I see it is we have what are the absolute finest transducers (dynamic) on the planet. How can it get any better via Tad other than the BE mids and the slight better motors on the bass units of the Ref Ones? I always see this percentile of something, and many believe the Pios are 90-95% of the Tads. I'm very curious if we can make a percentile or if we can say it would be difficult in an a/b to say which one is Tad and which is Pio. I loved the Youtube clip with Andrew talking about the Tad E1's vs. CR-1's and saying to the audience, but you were hearing the E1 and not the CR-1, as if they are so close in sound that it's hard for anyone to say which is what speaker. I also know many that feel the E1 is the superior speaker over the Reference One, and also know the E1 is w/some slight things, identical to the Pioneer EX1. I'll go on a limb and say if we had all Tad's offerings and Pio's offerings on hand, behind a curtain, we would all be fooled as the sound is probably that close to tell the difference w/exception of few golden ears that can hear some slight differences maybe from the BE mid and again the dual 10's in the Ref One would easily give them away:)).
Audioexcels.....Dude, you sound very excited about your TADs, and you should be. I love my S-3EX'es like nobody's biz. I was taking a chance when I bought them and relaying on, they we're right. Don't let the Pioneer logo fool you. It says TAD on the back and when you turn them on they say MUSIC. I have them 38 inches from the side walls to the center of the speaker and 34 inches from the front of the speaker to the wall, no cancellation I hope. Auralex acoustic panels all around as everything is up front. Super warm and dynamic, Electrostatics look out.
This speaker is in the house as of three days ago...woooohooo!!! I have the Pioneer 1EX as I wanted the BE dome. Maybe others cannot hear the difference but it was worth it for me since we are talking penny change for what we are getting back sound wise. Regardless, I'd surely live with the newer 3EX model as the ceramic tweeter I'm positive would not be a terrible let down and sound excellent for much less money too. It was a thing where if say Pioneer offered a BE mid version for another 3K a pair, I'd have the all BE version. BE is a serious metal, MUCH stiffer than Magnesium, let alone any other metals we find in speakers like titanium, aluminum, etc.

My .02 about the Pios is this:

1) They don't need much power to drive them to very loud volume levels. They live up to that measured efficiency very well, but it also may have to do with the pistonic behavior and speedy transients displayed by these not full fledged Tad Reference One drivers, but darn state of the art vs. off-shelf name your manufacturer's drivers.

2) Sound is absolutely phenomenal. Many will dislike this speaker because it doesn't have much of anything at all attached to it. Even coming from a Seas Excel Magnesium Coaxial w/rear firing ribbon speaker, this speaker just sounds thinner per say, as if it just has no substance on it, no hints or bits of thickness/coloration of other drivers...the coax almost reminds me of an older totally raw paper type sounding driver, but obviously way smoother/cleaner/resolved/detailed/immaculate in every way conceivable. It's not to say that vocals become all thin/tiny/youthful, but that they do shed some or a LOT of weight depending on how much coloration your last speakers were...i.e. something Scanspeak/Vifa/Dynaudio/etc. will sound real muddy/thick/and make the Pioneers sound very "synthetic/not natural/real/etc."...all sound is subjective, but this is what I am getting from the sound. This said, the vocals "presence" is amazing and again, in spite some is shaven off, you still get VERY FAT and BIG vocal presence, just with an elimination of any and all distortion which gives a "clearer" sounding vocal. Instruments is the same deal, thinner, but I think more true to the way instruments truly sounded when they were recorded or even in real life.

I have not done any raking/setup/nothing at all, but I can literally move the speaker a few inches and the sound changes "dramatically"...It's certainly an easy to enjoy/setup speaker BUT, it is absolutely NOT easy in any sense of the word if you are striving to get them "precisely" setup OR even just learn how sound changes each and every inch of the way. I've never owned a speaker that I moved a few inches and the sound was entirely different..that was seriously shocking. I've heard loads of speakers where you change positioning and of course sound changes, but just how much they changed with such little movement at all was truly amazing. I can only imagine spending weeks with the speakers for a precise as possible setup will do for absolutely state of the art sound.

I have not heard the Tad Reference Ones, but I have to think this is the poor man's Tad, and we are not losing much of the big Tads at all...One has to ask, is it worth 80K for the BE in the mid, dual 10's with much better motors, OR, is the sound already so beyond anything off the shelf Seas-Scan-Raal-Peerless-Focal-etc. etc. that going any further is rather lunacy!:)

Did some one compare S-Z9 VS S-2EX ?
Nothing thin about the S-3EX, they're nice and warm with tubes and sound about the same with solid state amps. Turned out to be a great buy. Let them break in.
Upon quite extensive, but not extensive enough listening/setup/etc., these speakers REALLY respond to position. I would even go so far as to say one could literally spend a good few weeks-months getting various different sound out of the speakers. I've tried toe everywhere, tilt forward-backward-etc., and I'm still having a time with figuring out what I like best. I can say one thing for can make an entirely contrasting sound with even TINY little changes in speaker placement. I have never owned a speaker that was so sensitive to placement, nor one that had such a dramatic sound difference even with such minute changes in the placement. The fascinating thing about this speaker is how "different" it is from anything I have ever heard. It is very easy to understand why people would either love or hate this type of speaker because one may be too used to the "ordinary" sound from even mega buck cost no option speakers. I personally love the sound, but when listening to ordinary speakers, it's like a deja vu type of feeling and even raises question marks as to what exactly is correct sound reproduction...the ordinary or the extraordinary?
I'm listening to the speaker slightly tilted forward using a Herbie's loudspeaker Decoupling/Isolation footer in the rear with the 2 back feet of the speaker slightly extended from the floor. I had the Herbie's smaller Spike decoupling feet in the front but replaced them with the steel footers that came with the speaker. I can't tell yet what sounds better. My next move will be listening with all four feet to the floor. That 5th foot in the back makes it ideal for the speaker to rest on 3 feet thus lowering any vibration and giving you more latitude on placement. How can you hate a speaker like this, it's warm and un-colored.
Has anyone heard the Pioneer Center Channel S-7EX to pair with TAD or Pioneer speakers?
Have all 5 speakers of Ex series. The S-1 is very good. My listening interest is strictly classical & opera. The S-1 comes into play with SACD's & the Living Stereo & Mercury 3 channel reissues. Worth every penny.
I have the s3ex and it is awesome. Instruments are very realistic. It blows away my psb synch1 and dynaudio c1 sig. Anyone who know a dealer who still has a stock of the s3ex? I have a friend who wants to buy one.